The Gospel, reloaded. pt 2
In part 1 I laid out my need to explicate the Gospel in its basics. Most already know the basics, but sometimes a fresh perspective helps shed new light in the heart. That’s my hope. And especially I would like to help people who are new to the Lord, or who do not know him, to understand him better.
So far, in Part 1, we imagined a God who is absolute in knowledge and power, and who perfectly possesses such character qualities as righteousness, peace and joy. And to that we then added a most amazing aspect to his nature: love.
Love is amazing because it is the one quality that takes a person out of himself and focuses on seeking the good of others in a highly personal way. There are many aspects to love by which this can occur – mercy, admiration, empathy, etc. – but they all fall under the rubric of love.
God exists perfectly content, but if he had a way to express his love others would be blessed as well, and his love would be more fulfilled. He would take joy is seeing others happy. It’s not that he needs it, it’s purely generosity toward those he would love. I don’t have a better way to say it than that, and I suspect it’s ultimately a mystery that we can’t understand.
So God set into motion a plan. He would create. He would create inanimate objects, he would create living creatures, and ultimately he would create beings made in his own image and likeness, who could commune with his spirit. He would create man.
He set man in a paradisiacal garden. Everything man needed was there for his enjoyment. There was only one potential pitfall that he needed to avoid, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
We ask, what’s so bad about knowing about good and evil? Don’t we need to know that to live on earth? Actually, back then there was no need to know it, because there was not supposed to be any evil to be wary of. What the tree really represented was lack of trust in God, and independence from God.
Indeed, when the serpent tempted Eve, he undermined her trust in God by slandering him. He said that God rules over man exploitatively, for his own selfish benefit (see my piece, No Mere Angel). As Eve considered that, the fruit of the tree looked good, and the serpent succeeded in tricking Eve to sin against herself. Later, Adam was not fooled by the serpent’s lies, but loved Eve so much he followed her into perdition. Thereby, the entire human race was captured into slavery to sin and death by the devil.
In case you’re wondering about the devil, how he came about if God created everything perfect, how that happened is recorded in Ezekiel:
“Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God : You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
“You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
“You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.
“In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
“Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.
“By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
“All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever.” – Eze 28:13-19
The devil fell, essentially, by violating the rule of love. Instead of focusing on the God who is the pure source of all love, he focused on himself. He took pride in the beauty God had invested in him – beauty which should have been used to glorify God and help point others to God. The devil exalted himself in his heart, and that led to the need to have others exalt him. He tried to set up his own Kingdom to rival God’s.
And so, God’s plan seemed to be ruined. If satan had forced man into servitude, man’s rescue would have been an easy, physical matter. But because man himself had fallen due to exercising his own free will, that rescue seemed impossible. All of creation was spoiled and thrown into chaos, as the rebellion had spread even among the angels.
But here we must go back to our original definition of God. God is all-knowing, and exists outside of time. That means he knew exactly what was going to happen even before he created a thing. Yet he created anyway? Why? What was he trying to prove?
There are only two possible answers to that question. Either God is cruel and went ahead with a plan that he knew would doom us forever to sin and pain and death, or God had a remedy in mind that would correct the problem and restore his Kingdom.
God did have a plan, and it was so outrageous that it was unthinkable. It was so outlandish that he kept it shrouded in darkness, carefully protecting it until it was fulfilled, so that even the devil would unknowingly play a major role in his own demise (see my piece, The Master Strategist). In one stroke God would rescue man from slavery and at the same time vindicate his own reputation. His plan was utterly simple: he himself would pay the price of man’s ransom. He would become a perfect man and offer himself as a sacrifice on man’s behalf.
And that is exactly what happened. God’s Son, Jesus, became a man, taught us through miracles and words about God’s ability to restore, and then went on to pay the price of our redemption.
You may wonder where Jesus came from. God did not have to abdicate his throne when Jesus came to earth, because God exists as a unity of three persons. These persons are distinct, yet bound together with such perfect love that they are essentially one.
After raising from death and ascending back to heaven, Jesus left his disciples behind to build his church. And those disciples recorded the testimony of Jesus, which is our Bible.
Jesus paid an incredible price to redeem man. God is forever vindicated, having proved that he does not rule over man exploitatively, but rather for man’s own good. The chaos is destroyed, God’s Kingdom is reestablished.
Or at least it’s begun to be reestablished. There’s a little mop-up operation that needs to happen first, as the devil’s Kingdom is brought to naught and more souls are translated into God’s Kingdom. So for the time being Jesus’ followers find themselves in a vicious war with darkness.
Now here’s where the rubber meets the road. Going back to the tree in the garden, remember that it represented independence from God. God put it there because when he created man, he meant business. He really was giving man the ability to choose which way he would go. He could obey or he could go his own way. Either choice would have very real consequences. Even at the cost of man’s death, God was going to let man make his own choice. Indeed, even at the cost of the death of God’s Son, God was going to allow that choice.
God has not changed. He’s perfect, remember, and has no need to change. He is still going to respect your decisions, whatever they are. Just as with Adam, if you choose life, you will live. If you choose death, you will die.
Christ dying will have no benefit for you unless you receive him as your personal Lord and Savior. None. The blessings of God are not automatic. That’s because God is still looking for those who will worship him, not because it’s forced on them, but because they know it’s right and they want to (Jn 4.23). He’s looking for a people who will return the love he has for them.
There is no other issue in life that rivals this in importance. Not whom you marry, not what career you choose, how much money you make or how you vote. Important as all that is, it cannot come close to what you do with Jesus.
If this is old to you, I hope that I have encouraged you, by way of remembrance, to increase you devotion to Christ, and that maybe I have shed a little new light. But if this is new, I hope you will very carefully consider what I have written. There is plenty of information available about who Christ is and what he did for us. And the best information of all is the source text itself, the Bible. You might start in the Gospel of John, for a very intimate look at Jesus.
You can have eternal life, starting right now. Both you and your life will then forever change, as you begin to see things in God’s higher perspective. You can have freedom, purpose and significance – and yes, also persecution – as you serve the Lord. It will be hard sometimes, but it will be rewarding. And nothing of this earth will ever be able to satisfy you again, because you will have tasted of the true, heavenly riches.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Rev 21:1-5
The vision John saw in Revelations was so astonishingly, unthinkably beautiful that he could not even bring himself to write it down! But the name given to Jesus as he rode upon a horse was “Faithful and True” (Rev 19.11). God cannot lie, and his purposes remain exactly the same from the very beginning. Nothing, not even the greatest, most insidious rebellion in history, was able to stop him from seeing his plans through to success. Now it’s up to each of us to decide where we want to be in his plan.
May God bless you as you make your choice.
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